Retro: Phuket, Thailand

So here’s where we got lazy.  Both a good thing and a “bad” thing.

With Daina having a much more limited amount of vacation than Laird and I (with us being teachers), we decided that we didn’t want to spend the whole trip bouncing from sweaty city to sweaty ruin without ending things on a sweaty beach.  So, we decided to make our way south to Phuket, which is known as Thailand’s beach zone.  Lots of beaches all over the island, lots of little islands off of the main island, each with their own beautiful beaches.  Massive amount of choice.

So, we got lazy.

Maybe a bit of a missed opportunity, but not such a bad thing until the sunstroke.

More on that later.

We ended up in the Patong area of Phuket, which is pretty much their party zone, close enough to a relaxing enough beach that it made a good stop at the end.  To be honest, the days we spent there blurred just a little bit, so I’m going to go good thing, bad thing for the purposes of this review.

Good Thing: The Seafood

Phuket is an island, so you’re going to have easy access to delicious seafood regardless of where you are.  However, if you stay away from the main restaurants, you can find a bevy of smaller seafood stalls and restaurants that pop up just off of the main Patong strip.  Dozens, if not over a hundred options on what to eat and how to eat it, the catch looks and tastes fresh as all heck.  We ate at a few “classier” restaurants later in the trip, but none were as tasty as the first crab we had on the street.

Bad Thing: Patong Town

Okay, I’m not writing off the whole town.  However, the main thing about it that I didn’t like was it was a bit too much like all of Bangkok jammed into one area, and not in the best of ways.  Khao San Road in Bangkok is touristy, but it’s not a complete Red Light Fiasco like the Patpong district, and Bangkok has enough of a metropolitan feel that you can find different areas depending on where you go.  In Patong, the nightlife gets sandwiched onto one “strip” and the “Red Light” aspect of it really tends to take over.  Again, it’s sad that this aspect of Thai tourism can sometimes dominate the perception, but there it is.  If you’re looking for a night out where you’re not getting hastled, Patong isn’t the place to go.

Good Thing: Patong Beach

Not the best beach in the world, but we were there in August, so it was low season and reasonably unoccupied.  The sand was clean, the water was warm, there were lots of nice little restaurants and stalls popping up along the beachside and we didn’t drown, in spite of blatantly ignoring the red flags against swimming.  So that was good.

Bad Thing: My Thai Guesthouse

Ranking where we stayed in the “Bad Thing” category only because of the stained sheets when we came in (even after switching from a room with REALLY stained sheets) and what appeared to be black mold growing in the bathroom.  It’s got some good reviews on Tripadvisor now, so maybe they’ve upped their game, but four years ago, it was a bit grungy to say the least.

Crazy Thing: The Boss

So you come to realize that a lot of the things in Thailand are there to separate you from your money. You just kind of roll with it after a while.  Never was this demonstrated more elegantly than by “The Boss.”  By elegant, I of course mean “Sledgehammer-to-the-Junk.”

We’re wandering past a bar and notice Connect-Four games set up at the counter.  So we wander up and start playing again.  Soon enough, a gravely voiced woman comes over and, in the typical Thai brogue, shouts “HEY!!!  We play a game, I win you buy me shot!”  We didn’t bite at first and, knowing my list of travel scams, we tried to ignore her.  She was persistent and elevated her side of the game to “If you win, I buy all three of you shots.”  Making sure several times that we were only buying her a shot if we lost (and not the whole bar), we started a game… at which point, she dropped her top and played Connect Four.

Well, we politely told her that she didn’t have to show us that, and she redressed (for a while).  As the night went along, she told us her name was “The Boss”, that she was Malaysian and, when she asked us to guess how old she was and Daina (politely?) said 27, she replied 47.  And good for her, she didn’t look it.  There was lots of random dancing on the bar, the top kept moving around, we were actually just there to play Connect Four (maybe the only people on the island who saw a board game as a board game, who knows), so the whole thing got pretty uncomfortable after a while, to the point where the other locals at the bar told her she needed to tone it down.  Maybe it was the fact that she kept ringing the bell at the bar every time she drank, even though nobody was prompting her to drink.

So, yeah, “The Boss.”

Good Thing: Waves

So the “Red Flag” conditions obviously meant no swimming.  We kind of ignored that, simply due to the fact that there were other people, including locals, in the water.  The waves were huge and we literally spent hours, both days, playing in them.  We jumped around, rented a boogie board, and just generally had a blast.

Bad Thing: Sunstroke

Okay, so the first day in the waves, Daina had an SPF-50 sunblock spray and a swimshirt, since he’s pretty darn pale.  On the second day, the sunblock had run out, Daina went without said swimshirt and spent nearly three hours in the water.

Didn’t turn out that well.

Basically, the poor guy was crimson when we got back to the guesthouse, was hot to the touch, completely delirious and non-sensical and there was a legitimate moment where I thought “Is our last night in Thailand going to be spent in a Thai hospital?”  The next thought was “How much Gatorade does he need to drink to keep him out of one?”

Well, a combination of Gatorade, cold showers, puking, air conditioning and sleep got us through the night and to the airport the next day.  Fortunately, we were on the same Phuket-Bangkok-Seoul flight.  Unfortunately, my Seoul-Toronto flight was direct with Korean Air, while Daina had a three-stop flight with United.

I’ll let you figure out who got the unfortunate side of that one.

Defies Belief Thing: This picture.

Dude kept the ball from hitting the ground the whole way down the beach.  Amazeballs.

So, we probably didn’t get the most out of Phuket that we could have.  No trips to the Ko’s (islands), no diving or snorkeling, no heading to different parts of the island, but it was pretty chill until the brain frying at the end of it. I’d go back, but I think I’d branch out a bit.

Overall, I enjoyed Thailand but it never really surprised me.  That being said, I will admit to having rushed through at a speed where I might not have let myself get surprised.  I’m sure we’ll be back there in the future, on account of it being the hub city of Southeast Asia, and maybe then we’ll be able to get a more “real” experience there. 

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